NAIROBI, Kenya, May 23- Title holders UAP Rhinos coach Eric Situma is confident their title defense is still on course despite a second place finish in the group stages of Bamburi Rugby Super Series tournament.
As they prepare to face Lions in the semi finals this weekend at the RFUEA Grounds, Situma is banking on the notion that they go into the match as the underdogs to upset their opponents.
“We lost our first match in a long time, with that Lions who are unbeaten this year will be the favorites but we will give them the contest of champions, said Situma whose side lost 17-15 to Rwenzori in Kampala ending their unbeaten run in the series that stretched from 2008.
Rhinos booked their place in the last four after a hard fought 25-18 win over Mumias Sugar Buffaloes over the weekend having previously beaten a hapless KCB Victoria 46-9 on the opening day.
Situma feels that the teams’ loss may have been due to the lack of coordination which he attributes to the unavailability of players in his franchise.
“My players have been juggling training for the franchise and the national 15s team that is preparing to defend the Africa Confederation title and play in the English Counties tour and in addition the two clubs (Nakuru and Quins) are miles apart,” the Nakuru RFC coach added.
The team has been forced to alter their training schedule to accommodate the needs of the national team that has resulted to fatigue but the coach is certain they have the experience in their quest to book a slot in the final for a fourth year in a row.
“Nakuru and Quins were outstanding in the Kenya Cup which means we have the depth within the team despite all the shortcomings.
“Our opponents are also a strong side with the tournament’s top scorer among their ranks but I have big match players that are used to pressures of this nature,” expressed Situma about the prospects of facing Lions utility back Fabian Olando who has accumulated 34 points so far.
When the two teams met last year in the pool stages, UAP Rhinos marched into the semi finals with a 24-19 triumph over the Lions in an engaging tie at Nakuru’s Afraha Stadium. This time, the champions are likely to lack the services of Edwin Achayo who has a head injury as well as centre Dennis Muhanji with a tissue injury.
Lions topped pool A with a 24-15 victory over SDV Transami Cheetahs who will travel to face Dimension Data Rwenzori at the Kyadondo Rugby Club in Kampala in the other semi final.
Lions had been impressive after trouncing Coastal Bulls 45-6 on the opening day that was followed by a 15-8 win over Nguvu Sharks.
Situma is relishing a finals encounter against Rwenzori which he believes will be a good development for the tournament as it seeks to be the premier 15s showpiece in the region.
“They beat us narrowly in the group stages, a rematch in the final will be a sure climax to the tournament,” he added
Edwin Makori’s try in sudden death saw the Rhinos retain the Bamburi Rugby Super Series title last year with a 20-15 win over a battling SDV Transami Cheetahs in an entertaining final at the RFUEA Grounds.